Oi Polloi

Dispatches from Iceland

Published: Fri Jul 01 2016

English people probably don’t want to think too much about Iceland right now, but whilst this small island in the sea may have trounced us in the football, the truth remains… it’s still a bloody nice place.

I was in Reykjavik for a few days a couple of weeks ago. Due to my in-built cynicism for pretty much everything, we didn’t unwind in the blue lagoon, we didn’t see any geysers and we didn’t stand behind any waterfalls whilst capturing the memories forever via selfie-stick mounted mobile device. To be honest, we may as well have stayed in Manchester.

For anyone thinking of going anytime soon, here are a few things I’d recommend.

There are plenty of decent outdoor swimming pools that cost next to nothing. A particularly good one was a one called Laugarsdalslaug that was out to the east of the city. It looked like it had been built in the 60s, there was a massive slide and unlike UK pools, there were hardly any lifeguards policing the fun.

There is some weird rule that means you’ve got to shower naked before entering the pool though. I don’t really know what the reason for this was, but considering they go on about being liberal and everything, they seemed to enforce it fairly strictly. But as they say, when in Rome…

If you’re a weirdo who enjoys looking at old buildings, I’d recommend the Open Air Museum. This is basically just a large field where they’ve plonked in some tin houses. There’s no interactive computer displays or anything like that, you’re just free to snoop around as you please. Animal fans will enjoy the goats and chickens, and music lovers will enjoy the out of tune organ in the chapel.

Just down the road from here there’s a little nature reserve sort of place that’s worth a look. Unless you rent a car or like sitting on cramped coaches full of tourists, then it’s not easy to break out into the natural world. This spot, called Elliðaárdalur (not sure how you pronounce that one), is pretty good though. It’s maybe not the epic Lord of the Rings landscape some people crave, but if you want an afternoon away from the city, then this picturesque valley is definitely worthy of a visit.

There was also a weird heated man-made beach down near Reykjavik airport. The water was still freezing, but it was presumably warmer than swimming in the real sea. No chance of getting mauled by a shark too.

Food-wise, we mostly ate pizza as everything else was well expensive. A few of the supermarkets in town seemed to have hiked up the prices for tourists, but there’s one called Bonus that sold stuff at slightly more reasonably prices. I think there’s some sort of law where supermarkets can’t sell beer or something though, and it was a struggle to find anything that wasn’t dodgy 2% light beer. You can get glass bottles of Coca-Cola pretty much everywhere though so it’s not all bad.

I think that’s pretty much all I’ve got to say. The only real downside to the place is a LOT of Americans wandering around in Columbia fleeces talking loudly about themselves. Steer clear of the obvious tourist zones and you’ll be alright though.

Here are a few photos for visual flavour. Maybe skip past those ones of celebrating football fans if you’re still a bit sore from Monday’s match.